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8th Senate: One Suspension Too Many

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This was my headline before the shameful invasion of the National Assembly by thugs suspected to be sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege Agege who was suspended by the Senate.

Words fail me to describe how barbaric Omo Agege has behaved. I thought that Nigeria was past the orgy of violence which characterised the National Assembly many years ago. What he did has endangered his position as a senator. The Senate may now extend his suspension to full 180 days.

Even some senators sympathetic to his cause will develop cold feet towards him seeing the rascality he showed on Wednesday.

There are many questions than answers in the whole invasion. For the National Assembly to be easily invaded by thugs and easily gain access to the hollowed Chambers should worry every right thinking Nigerian.

Another report also said Senator Yayi Adeola was  kidnapped by gunmen in front of the National Assembly that same Wednesday .  According to his aide, they took him all the way to the House of Representatives – they were trying to escape through the villa gate; it was at that point he had to maneuver and jumped out of the vehicle.

These are indeed perilous times. If a senator could be kidnapped in front of the National Assembly and thugs invade the Senate, it shows we are in a season of anomie.

By Thursday morning , I expected the head of security of the National Assembly and all the policemen mounting gates where the thugs passed to resign or be sacked. It shows they cannot protect an important arm of government like the legislature.  What if the thugs were armed ? Top class security men should be protecting the National Assembly.

A friend once told me a story of how he entered the National Assembly and the security men at the gate did not even stop and check his car. Instead, they were hailing and asking “anything for the boys” ,just because he was riding a fancy car. What if he were a terrorist? That is how he would have driven in and cause havoc.

Meanwhile, below is my original piece for the week. Enjoy

Welcome to the 8th Senate, the most dangerous place to have an opinion in Nigeria. The Upper Chambers’ intolerance for divergent views has now reached legendary status.

Last week , the Senate  suspended Delta Senator, Ovie Omo-Agege for 90 legislative days. His offence –  for opposing the electoral amendments bill.

Recall that Omo-Agege alongside nine other Senators had staged a walkout after the Senate passed the bill.

The lawmakers had claimed that the electoral amendment bill was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Omo-Agege instituted legal actions against the Senate. This was after the lawmaker apologized at plenary, for his actions.

Presenting the recommendations of the committee, the chairman, Senator Sam Anyanwu, described Omo-Agege’s statement as malicious, unfounded and aimed at smearing the institution of the Senate.

The committee recommended that Omo-Agege be suspended for 181-legislative days for his actions.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki also recommended a termination of groups within the Senate and a withdrawal of the case instituted against the red chamber in court.

Our 8th Senate is a special brand . During the eight year rule of Senator David Mark, he never for once suspended any lawmaker. He is arguably the best Senate President Nigeria has ever had. There were crisis during his reign and I am sure, he must have had the urge to exercise his powers, but he handled his colleagues with tact and maturity.

In other crimes, the United States Constitution gives the Senate the power to expel any member by a two-thirds vote. In over 215 years of American democracy, only 24 Senators have been expelled or censured . In less than three years of the 8th Senate, two lawmakers have already been suspended and there are reports that Senator Abdullahi Adamu’s head is next on the platter.

According to Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution, 39(1) , Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. The courts have earlier declared that suspending a lawmaker is illegal. Human rights lawyer Femi Falana, has said that the Senate’s suspension of Senator Ali Ndume and Omo-Agege was illegal.

According to him, “The purported suspension of Senator Ali Ndume is the height of the serial illegality in the Senate. In Hon Dino Melaye & Ors v House of Representatives (unreported), the Federal High Court declared the indefinite suspension of the plaintiffs illegal and unconstitutional on the ground that a legislator could not be suspended for more than 14 days,”

“But in the House of Assembly v Hon Danna, the Court of Appeal held that a legislative house in Nigeria is not competent to suspend a member even for a single day as it is a violation of the democratic rights of members of his/her constituency,”‎ he said.

Is it not ironical that Senator Dino who benefitted from this judgement was the chief campaigner for the suspension of Ndume and Omo-Agege .

The lawmakers are turning out to be number one law breakers in the country. It’s funny that the two lawmakers who were suspended are APC members in a Senate where the Senate President is an APC man and the majority of the members are APC members. Yet, APC lawmakers were at the forefront of calling for the head of their colleagues –  only in the 8th Senate would this happen.

On Offa Robbery
In what could be described as a scene out of a Quentin Tarantino movie, armed robbers attacked five banks in Offa two weeks ago leaving behind trails of destruction and deaths.
According to reports, the men, who numbered close to 30, blew up entrances into the banks with dynamite in an operation which lasted for more than one hour.
The banks allegedly affected by the raids are Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, First Bank, Union Bank and Eco Bank.
The robbers, who entered the area around 4 pm, shot continuously to scare aware some residents. They reportedly blocked roads from both Ilorin and Oshogbo and entered Owode Police Station in the metropolis.
The armed robbers operated for close to two hours in Offa unchallenged.
According to reports, close to 50 people died in the attack.
The question I asked myself is, how did we get here? When did life become so cheap in Nigeria? Everyday when you flip through the newspapers, we are confronted with deaths from herdsmen killings, bandits overrunning towns in the North West.
We have now added the Offa Robbery to our long list of infamy. The robbery was a sad case as the robbers went on a killing spree, murdering people with no valid reason. I also want to commend the Nigerian Police for arresting some of the culprits. This goes to show the Nigerian Police can be very effective if they want to.
In my opinion, this case should not take more than one month in court. This is an open and shut case as most of the culprits have confessed to the crime. The minimum each of them should get is life imprisonment. Because of our weak judicial system, one of the culprits was earlier arrested for armed robbery and spent less than a year in prison before he was released and immediately continued from where he stopped.
We should stop repeating the same mistakes. Our courts should learn to live up to their responsibilities.



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